Originally Published in The New York Times
Annie Correal and Ed Shanahan - March 11, 2021
Javier Castillo Maradiaga was on his way to a family birthday party in the Bronx in December 2019 when the police arrested him for jaywalking.
So began a 15-month odyssey during which he was locked up and flown between detention centers around the United States after New York City authorities failed to honor a law meant to keep undocumented immigrants from routinely falling into federal immigration authorities’ hands.
It was not until Wednesday, after city officials had admitted their blunder and joined activists, federal lawmakers and Mr. Castillo’s lawyers to push for his release, that he was freed from a New Jersey detention center on a federal judge’s order.
The unusual case highlights the tensions at play in recent years between a wide-ranging crackdown on undocumented immigrants by federal authorities and efforts in some jurisdictions to shield such residents with so-called sanctuary policies, which prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from collaborating with federal immigration authorities.
It also shows how little it can take for such efforts to fall short.
Mr. Castillo, 27, moved to New York from Honduras as a child to reunite with his mother. He received temporary relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which began in 2012, a year after he graduated from high school; he and two siblings became legal U.S. residents.
But his status lapsed, and, fearing deportation after President Donald J. Trump was elected and the DACA program’s future became cloudy, he did not reapply. That made him an undocumented immigrant when the police stopped him.
After being brought to the local precinct, Mr. Castillo was taken to a courthouse, officials said. The next day, the city’s Department of Correction transferred him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, contrary to a city policy banning such transfers in most cases.
New York law enforcement officials are not supposed to turn people over to ICE or hold them on the federal agency’s behalf, even when ICE has made a so-called detainer request. There are exceptions for those who have been convicted of violent or serious crimes or who have been identified as possibly matching people listed in a terrorist-screening database.
In the 12 months starting in July 2019, city records show, the Correction Department turned 20 people over to ICE. Of those, Mr. Castillo was the only one who had not been convicted of a violent or serious crime. He was also the only person known to have been transferred to ICE under such circumstances since the city’s sanctuary policy took effect in 2015, officials said.